The Dark


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He stood on the rim and looked out at the world, and the world was desert! As far as the eye could see, an unbroken plain of salt and sand stretched away to the horizon and beyond. The desert was colored in brown and white and yellow. A few cactus looking plants hugged the rim wall, beyond which nothing grew. The heat; even here at the edge of the desert, was stifling. Wave upon wave of heat shimmered from the sand, and played tricks on the eyes. Below, a dust devil spun and made lazy circles off to his right. It was the only sign of movement, the only sign of life. An odor of sulfur, and of salt, tore at his nostrils while he considered his fate.

There could be no turning back, to do so meant a sure and painful death. Even now he could hear the howls of the tracking beasts, as they made their way across the valley behind him. An hour behind, maybe two, but as sure as the sun; that never set in the sky, they would soon be upon him. His mind raced to find an exit, some way out but there was none. To die in the desert, or to be torn apart, for the amusement of the Emperor and the Imperial Court, was his only choice. At least the desert was clean!

He checked his supplies, two maybe three days rations of food, a weeks worth of water and one full and one half empty charge for the laser rifle. And the one reason he kept running from them, the reason he was still alive, the reason he would never give up, the last remaining clutch of Dragon eggs. He closed up his pack, took a deep breath, and began running down the hill and into the desert.

When he reached the bottom of the hill he turned left, away from the storm and took a heading on the twin peaks of the Dragon Horns mountains, some 50 miles away. From above, the desert had looked flat but after an hour or so he came upon a gully; an ancient river, and ran into it's cooling shade. Tired and out of breath he rested in the cool and taking off his pack, inspected it's precious cargo.

Nestled in his spare shirt were twelve gems all a different color. Hard as diamonds yet glowing each from deep inside. The last clutch from the last of the great Wyrms. Now no bigger than ostrich eggs, yet when fully grown they would sport a 80 ft wing span and weigh in at 5 tons. A dragon could fly many weeks at 300 mph with out stopping to land. Teeth that could crunch and eat a flyer and claws that could rip open a tank. Scales as hard as diamonds and their hot breath could melt any known metal. Not really fire but a combination of several highly corrosive acids spit from an orifice under the dragons tongue. But what made them really dangerous, was their intelligence.

He closed the pack, took out his water jug and took a long deep draw. He was bone tired, hadn't slept in many cycles. He had run about 150 miles since his flyer had been hit in his mad dash to escape. He knew he would have to sleep soon but to stop would mean his death. He took another sip of the precious liquid and as he did he saw a reflection of light on top of the rim from where he had come. He shaded his eyes from the blinding sun and looked again. He could see them in their colorful uniforms, pretty colors he thought. Made for parading not for hunting. At least he would know where they were. He also saw the dust devil spinning at the base of the hill. That just might confuse the beasts for a while he thought, as he capped the water jug and pulled himself up onto his tired feet.

He could no longer run but tried to trot down the gully and away from the rim. He tried to stay in the shadows to conserve what little energy he had left. It was hopeless but still he moved on. The trot soon became a walk and after another hour he was forced to rest.

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He lay in the cool of a shadow and thought to take a brief rest but soon fell asleep and dreamed of his home planet and it's rolling blue oceans.

He returned to his mothers cottage deep in a cool dark valley. He saw his brothers and sisters working the fields or picking grapes in the arbors. His mother sitting and rocking his youngest sister under the big shade tree in the yard. He looked for his father but then remembered he was killed off planet, in the Dragon Wars. He was just back from killing the nest of the dragon that had eaten his father. A mating pair and a dozen nestlings. It had been a long campaign on two worlds. His unit alone killed a quarter million . He was drunk on blood and slaughter, but very tired and listless. It was good to be back at home in the shade of the arbor. He could hear his mother calling to him, and then his brothers and sisters were calling too.

He awoke with a start, and realized they were very near and closing in on him. That dream was from along time ago, when he was young and a dragon slayer. He had stolen the last clutch and run here from his old comrades, for he saw a way to make some easy money and buy himself some time. Instead, when he had the eggs in his possession something began to change in him, not at first but soon and more and more each day. He was beginning to feel a strange kinship to them. He couldn't put a finger on it but he knew he couldn't destroy or sell them. He must save them at all costs. They were the last of a once proud and mighty race, all but destroyed by his kind.

He peeked up over the rim of the gully and saw them a quarter mile away in two groups. One group tracking from behind and another group to the one side trying to get in front of him. He was up in a instant and running along the gully away from his pursuers. Two men and three tracking beasts were off on his left. After a few minutes he gradually pulled ahead of the flankers.

Had he been able to see his back pack he would have noticed a multi-hued glow and suddenly his thoughts turned to laying an ambush for the flankers while he still had time. Something told him, that a good spot was just ahead. He had never been to this planet before. Hadn't even known it's name; Parlesia, or that everybody knew who he was and what he had done or the rather large reward that the eggs and his head would bring. He was just beginning to realize that none of those compelling thoughts were his. To steal the eggs or to come to this planet. But when he held the eggs in his hands and felt the vibrations beat in time to the glow nothing mattered. The eggs were love. He could no longer imagine killing them or that all consuming hate after the death of his father.

As the gully made a large S curve he saw that he had cut across the path of his flankers and on the end of that curve he saw the place that he had seen before in his mind. A small outcropping of rock pushed its way up from the desert floor. He raced to it's base and began to climb up until he reached its top. He pulled his rifle off his back and took aim on his followers.

He dropped the two humans in quick succession and then turned his attention on the beasts. Off world creatures that looked like a cross between the body of a bull and the head of a crocodile. As he fired on the humans the beasts made a bee line for his perch. He shot the first two as they came but then his weapon was empty. As he dropped his last clip of energy into the rifle, bright flashes of energy began streaking past his head and a smell of ozone permeated the air. Although still a quarter mile away the other group had found him and were running in his direction. A voice in his head told him to jump down and make a run for it.

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He leaped from his perch and had begun to run, when he heard the third beasts growl close behind him. In the confusion of battle he had forgotten that there were three. A fact that might soon cost him everything. Something nudged him and sent him sprawling to the ground. The massive tracking beast stood snarling above him, then as it began to lower it's head down to devour him, it was suddenly jerked up and backwards. As it turned its head to snap at what was holding it he saw the flea.

A sand crab held the tracking beast in its pincers. "Sand Crabs" or "Dragon Fleas," were mean, nasty little monsters that generally lived in or near dragon caves. He hadn't the time to wonder what this one was doing in the Great Polar Desert as the crab bit the struggling tracking beast in two and turned in his direction. He jumped to his feet as the ground began to tilt. Try as he might he couldn't stop from sliding. He quit trying when a voice told him that he had to hurry, that this was the only way out. With a serene look of peace in his eyes and a silly looking grin on his face, he began sliding down towards the crabs lair and into the dark.

The Sand Crabs trap was a simple hinged incline that would send a victim into the loving jaws of the Sand Crabs mate but when he got to the bottom of the ramp the waiting Sand Crab just looked him over but made no move to attack. He would have tried to run back up the ramp but the trap had already reset it's self so like it or not he was in the Sand Crabs lair with no hope of escape.

Gradually his eyes adjusted to the darkness as several shafts of light came through several holes in rock up above and he found himself surrounded not only by the Sand Crab but also the Sand Crabs victims. Piles of bones were neatly stacked against the walls of the cave as if in storage and in the center there was small piles of bone fragments. He slowly moved away from the Sand Crab when the trap door open and the other Sand Crab came in carrying half of the tracking beast in one of it's claws. It dropped the body at the other Sand Crabs feet. which cut the tracking beast into, pushing one half to it's mate and began to devour the other half.

While the Sand Crab were dining he slowing backed away from the beasts searching for a way out of this predicament he could vaguely see two tunnels leading from the lair when a Sand Crab came up from behind him and pushed him again and again towards the left tunnel. After a couple of shoves he thought he understood the Sand Crab and started walking toward the tunnel when a blinding light from the trap door brought two of his pursures into the Sand Crabs lair. They tried to regain their balance and aim their blasters at the crabs but were far too slow as the beasts grabbed them and cut them in two.

Why the beasts had let him go and perhaps showed him the way while immediately killing his enemies made no sense but who was he to look a gift Sand Crab in the mouth. He began to move down the darkening tunnel as quickly as he could! In a short while he had to feel his way along the tunnel as the light was all but gone. A hundred yards later and he thought he saw a light ahead and continued toward it. It wasn't a light as such, but a glowing fungus of some sort lined the tunnel on both side and the ceiling. He continued on for several miles but had to stop and rest. He took a swig of water from the jug and poured a little into his hands to wash his face and eyes with but try as he might to stay awake he was soon lost in a deep sleep that lasted a full day. Again he dreamt of his family farm and the rolling oceans of his home planet.

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He awoke and couldn't remember for a while where he was and how he had got there then the glowing eggs in his pack brought him back to reality. Even with the pack closed the eggs produce much more light than the glowing fungus. While his eyes focused he opened the pack and sought out his meager food supplies. If he cut the food rations in half they would give him four days worth of energy, after that in the shape he was in he wouldn't last long. Since he had about three days worth of water and a couple of energy packs that disolved in water he filled his cup and put one packett into it and waited for it to dissolve. While he waited he unwrapped the eggs and was almost blinded by their light. In the daylight they would be just seen to glow a bit, but here in the darkness they shown like beacons. The twelve eggs each glowed a different color and pulsed in unisone. They were beautiful beyond words and somehow he felt they emitted the feeling of love with every pulse.

His cup of water turned a light blue and was now piping hot and ready to drink. As he did his mind raced to find a way out of here and what he would do with the eggs if he never found a way out. He couldn't go back into the sand crabs lair he wasn't sure with what remained of his rifles charge, if he even had the energy to kill them both. As heavy armored as the crabs were he rather doubted that his weapon would do little more than piss the crabs off. No, better to keep going down this tunnel as occasionally there was a crack high above that let light in the darkness. When he had finished his drink he repack the pack and noticed how dark it became and he sat for a couple of minutes until his eyes adjusted to the darkness. When they did he still couldn't see much, but the fungus at least outlined the tunnel walls and ceiling. The drink did at least wake him up and give him the energy to walk on down the tunnel.

He walked on for about four hours before he was forced to take a rest where the tunnel turned into a cave. It wasn't very big because he could still see the faint glow of the fungus but up ahead it appeared to be two tunnels leaving the area. One to the left and one to the right. He walked up to their entrances and sat down to ponder his plight. Once again he opened his pack to get to the rations and the glow from the eggs over whelmed his eyesight until they could refocus. He unwrapped the eggs and selected the brightest one, an yellow egg which shone like an electric torch and looked around the area while he ate his last energy bar. When his circumnavigation of the cave was complete he decided to explore a short ways into each tunnel. As far as he could tell they were both pretty much the same but going apart by 45 degrees. The tunnels were obviously made by lava tubes, who knows how long ago, and they must have come from the Dragon Horn Mountains.

Trouble was, which tube to choose? They could both lead to dead ends? It could be very important which tube he chose or they could both be good or bad, or both? He knew that he didn't have the energy to explore both of them and if he wasn't to die down here he would soon need to find some food and water. He decided he would take the left fork and as he walked in that direction he noticed the yellow egg in his hand begin to glow even brighter. When he pointed the egg at the other tunnel the egg lost it's added brightness. The egg was trying to tell him something, but what? He closed his eyes and pointed the egg towards the left tunnel, then the right. When he pointed left he could feel the love pour from the egg, when pointed to the right the feeling of love stopped, pointed back to the left it began. Well, it seemed obvious to him that the eggs knew where they were going and had from the start, so who was he to stand in their way, and so, off they all went into the left tunnel!

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He had not gone far, perhaps a mile when the fungus stopped and he was alone in the dark except for the egg which seemed to glow even brighter. He trudged on and after a while he thought he could smell water up ahead as he turned round a bend in the tunnel he heard the sound of falling water and saw a light up ahead. After walking another quarter mile he came into a vast cave and a large pool of water with a hole in the ceiling allowing a broad beam of sun light to enter. When he came to the waters edge he sat the pack down and unstrapped the laser gun from his shoulder and sat at the waters edge. He cupped his hands and brought out a hand full of the water and sniffed it and when it smelled right he took a small sip and it tasted right so he gather up more and drank handfull after handfull. He took his water jug from the back of his pack and poured what little remained on the ground and began to rinse his jug and then fulled it to the brim with water. He then thrust his head in the water and began to wash his face and hands in the pool.

Afterwards he sat and wondered is he should eat his energy ration as it woud leave him with just two left but decided to as the finding of the lake gave him a more hopeful outlook and he was bone tired. He filed his cup from the lake and poured in the half ration into the cup and waited while it heated up and turned blue. Aa he sipped the hot liquid he considered his fate along with the fate of the eggs. He had about three days before he would need to find some food. He briefly thought that he had another 12 meals wrapped in his spare shirt but quickly disregarded that thought. Maybe he could eat that fungus that grew on the ceiling. He assumed he would find some more in the tunnels when he left the cavern as it apparently didn't like light. As for the dragons as long as they didn't hatch out they would be fine living off their egg yolk, but when they did they would need a source of meat or at least proteine. Still, he thought, one step at a time.

First he needed to find a way out of this cavern. Were there any tunnels leading out as the hole where the sunlight poured in was at least 200 feet above the lake and as he looked around he saw that there was no way up to it. He would have to find another tunnel but he needed a way to mark the tunnel he came out of so he would waste his time and what little energy he had on it, so he gathered some rocks and made a pile of them before it.

When he had finished his energy drink he rinsed out the cup and dipped out anther cup full and drank it down too and then decided which way to walk around the cavern. The eggs seem to know which way to go so he pointed the egg again to the right and then the left. This time the egg glowed the brightest to the right and so he picked up the pack, clipped the laser gun and cup back on the pack and made his way to the right along the lake shore. After walking perhaps 300 yards the cavern turned to his right and after turning the corner he heard something splashing in the water. He stopped and unhooked his gun and proceeded with caution along the shore.

He could hear the splashing and a curious voice but who, or what, it was was being blocked from his vision by a huge stalagmite thrusting up from the cave floor. When he came around the stalagmite he saw a girl playing in the water with a baby dragon perched upon her shoulder, billing and cooing into her ear. As suddenly as he saw her the dragon let out a high pitched chirp and she saw him standing there with the laser in one had and the egg in the other!

She looked him over from head to toe and then said something in the Parlesian language which he could understand about every fourth word. He said in broken Parlesian that he didn't speak her langage and could she speak in Central Speak. Central Speak was a langage that was developed by the 500 planets so that they could talk to one another. In that same strange accent she said she did and asked him if he was the one, the "father of dragons?"

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Father of dragons? He hadn't given it a lot of thought but now that he did, he supposed it might be true. He had stolen the eggs to sell them for a fortune or had he? When he thought of all that had happened it seemed it was not so much his thought than it was theirs. He was a calculated, thoughtful person, but surely he should have known what would happen when he stole them. That several governments would move heaven and earth to get them back, perhaps even the central government? His actions was not something that he would normally do, so what did that mean? Apparently, he was just a pawn in a larger game! Eventually he said that once he considered all the facts he could be seen as the father of dragons.

She said that her name was Miri and she was an exobiologist who had been drawn here to Parlesia but didn't know why, until she stumbled upon a clutch of three dragon eggs. She was amazed that eggs seemed to talk to her and tell her what she must do. When they hatched she realized that they had been controlling her long before she made planet fall on Parlesia.

He introduced himself as Jamis Rabbin and proceeded to tell her his similar tale. As he did two other little dragons flew up and landed one on her shoulder and the other on her head. They cooed to her and then all three looked at the egg in his hand. Seeing this he sat down on the shore and opened his pack and brought out the remaining 11 eggs. Which made the three dragons very excited. While this happened Miri walked toward Jamis and came out of the water. Jamis hadn't notice that Miri was naked from the waist down and tried very hard to keep his eyes locked on hers.

She set the dragons down and they all hopped to the eggs and began cooing to them. While they examined every egg Miri took the time to put on a pair of shorts and her shoes and sat down opposite the clutch of eggs. Each egg had increased it's glow which excited the little dragons even more. Jamis placed the egg he was holding back with the rest and all three dragons ran to it and began sniffing and calling to it.

Miri said, "My dragons have told me many things about our quest. Did you notice that all three of them are males?"

"No I hadn't," said Jamis. "My mind has been occupied looking at other things," he said to himself, as much as to her.

"Indeed," smiled Miri, knowing full well where his mind was at. "Oh, and did you know that all of your dragons are females,"? she continued.

"I see, said the blind man, now it's all beginning to make some sense," replied Jamis. "Why are we here and where are we going," he continued.

"All I know is we're traveling to The Dragon Horn Mountains looking for someone or something called, 'The Old One,'" Miri said.

'Funny, when I first entered the desert I took a baring on those mountains and for some reason I started to head toward them perhaps because they were only thing visible above the desert, but I now suspect my 'children' may have had something to do with it," said Jamis wondering out loud.

"Don't feel bad Jamis, I've already thrown away half of what I based my PhD thesis on. I wouldn't bet against throwing away the rest of it before we are through," said Miri.

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"What are you feeding your dragons," Miri, asked Jamis. "I'm almost out of food myself and have no idea what I can feed them when they hatch," continued Jamis.

"They have been feeding themselves, for the most part, most of the caves and tunnels are full of flying insects and birds, but I have given them a small part of my meat ration from time to time," she replied.

"How are your supplies holding out, I'm got maybe two days rations left," said Jamis.

"You can share mine as I have about a months supply left, and we should be at the Dragon Horn's in two or three days if my calculations are correct," she offered.

"Well, if you have plenty, then I'll take you up on your generous offer," Jamis replied.

"If you have rested, then perhaps, we should move on," Miri said

"I'm good to go, let me pick up my little darlings and we'll be off," said Jamis. Then added, "How are you finding your way?"

"Like you following the eggs glow I've been following the dragons. When I come to a fork in the tunnel. I place my things near the tunnel they want us to take, so if you'll follow me I'll take you there," Miri advised.

"Here's my camp, I perceived that we camped here in order to wait for your arrival, because when I tried to walk away from this lake they all took off and hovered over the entrance, and when I came back they all took off so I camped here waiting for their return. That was yesterday and they only came back a few minutes before you came upon us. I was going to take my top off and go for a swim when I heard you approach," she explained.

After she had packed up her camp he took the lead down the new tunnel, they hadn't gone but a little ways when Miri said, "Your whole back pack is glowing quite brightly since we left the light of the cave."

"I suspect they've been doing that all along, but since we entered the dark I've only become aware of it," said Jamis.

As they walked along Jamis eventually told his story and his motives for stealing eggs and all that had happened to him since and his conclusions that is was never his will but theirs behind everything.

Miri considered his story for a moment, then told her tale...

She had found the eggs in a market on Adigeon Prime and as a exobiologist she knew immediately what they were, fortunately the seller thought they were works of art without a clue to what they were and their real worth. She thought they were unfertilized or dead and didn't give it much thought except how they would look in her great room as decorations. She had went back to work cataloging an ancient race that lived 10,000 years before but weren't native to Adigeon Prime. It was several weeks later that she started having this desire to leave her work and make her way to Parlesia. At the time it made perfect sense but upon later reflection she couldn't believe her actions. For no apparent reason she left her important work behind and booked herself a tour of Parlesia's great polar dessert.

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One night, for no apparent reason, she left the tour and went walking in the desert carrying the eggs and a sack full of supplies with her when she found herself sliding down a ramp into the darkness. When her eyes adjusted to the darkness she could just barely make up two shapes, when she turned on torch she found the figures to be two huge Dragon Fleas and she knew she was dead but instead of ripping her to pieces they parted and let her pass and began to push her in the right direction. As she looked ahead she saw a tunnel and made a bee line for it, when she did the Dragon Fleas stopped then turned around and went back to base of the slide. The next night just as she was slipping off to sleep she heard the eggs cracking open and eventually three little dragons came forth and within a few moments unfurled their wings and came and landed around her face and made little cooing sounds, she made their sounds right back to them and after a while they settled down on her breasts and belly and went fast asleep, and after a while, she did too!

When she had finished her tale, they both fell silent, each thinking over what the other had said and added both tales together and sought out what each tale had surmised to their current situation. When they thought about it they both came to the same conclusion, they were both tools of the dragons though they been pretty much opposites to begin with. She a scholar, and he a slayer, but now both on the same mission, but what was that mission?

After a time, Miri spoke up, breaking their spell.

"After considering our stories I've concluded that the dragons have been controlling both of us, from the very beginning, to take them somewhere but for what purpose I can not currently grasp but that knowledge maybe the most important part of our quest," she exclaimed!

Jamis agreed by nodding his head and went back into deep thought as did Miri...

Titania the Fairy Queen flew to the feet of the great dragon Esmeralda and bowed deeply, then got down on her knees and said...

"My queen, I bring you news about the babies. They are but two days walk away and both curriers are now together. The males have hatched and the females may hatch at any time."

"Thissss issss good," hissed Esmeralda. "You will continue to watch over them and ssssee to their ssssaftey. Go at oncccce and do ssssso," she continued.

Titania replied, "I will go at once and do so my liege." She then arose, bowed deeply, took a few steps backwards and flew away back down the tunnel from wense she came.

This time it was Jamis who spoke. "If we are traveling with a purpose toward the unknown my guess is we are taking them to another dragon to properly raise. And who knows better than I that all the dragons are suppose to be dead but then we have obvious proof that isn't true. I'm having a bad feeling about this."

Miri spoke up saying, "I have those bad feeling too. I'm remembering what an old college professor said to me, and I quote, 'Don't meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and go good with wine.'"

Jamis thought for a moment and said, "That's funny, I once had a Ranger Captain that told me the very same thing," he exclaimed!

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They both felt a chill and decided to break camp and walk down the next tunnel that continued their journey southward. Titania who had been hovering a few yards away in the dark landed and followed them down the tunnel staying well back but because of the glow emanating from Jamis' pack kept them barely in sight.

They walked for another 4 hours without saying anything and then took a break by a small stream that crossed their path. Miri took our her food rations and shared some with Jamis, saying, "Here eat this, I have a feeling we'll need all of our strength in the days to come."

"Thanks," replied Jamis as he took the ration and began absent-mindedly feeding himself, while watching the little dragons examining his back pack. The little blue dragon with the gold belly turned and looked his way and he thought he heard the dragon telling him to open the back pack. He turned to question Miri but she just smiled and nodded her approval without saying a word, so Jamis unbuckled the pack and set the eggs out in plain view. When he did this all of the little dragons became excited and began flittering about just over the eggs making little cooing sounds.

"I think they're calling for the dragons inside the eggs to hatch," Miri said. "When mine hatched the first one out almost at once began reacting the same way over the unhatched dragons and it wasn't long before the other two hatched, Miri continued.

"Did you hear the blue dragon ask me to unbuckle my pack," asked Jamis?

"I didn't hear him so much as heard his thoughts," replied Miri.

"I heard sounds, I heard him telling me what he wanted done and in no uncertain terms either. It was more of a command than a request," said Jamis.

Miri started to reply when they both heard a cracking sound and when they looked at the eggs they could see one egg had clearly cracked, a moment latter it had cracked in two and a bright golden dragon emerged and unwrapped its wings. This sent the already excited males to land all about her and began to touch her and sniff her all over.

Meanwhile down the tunnel Titania got excited too and it took all of her powers to stay away but she did cut the distance between her and the dragons in half, again staying just out of sight. She would wait until the humans were asleep before calling the little ones to her.

Next came a bright purple dragon emerging from her shell and all four of the dragons waited while she unfurled her wings before going over to great her. Within the hour all twelve eggs had hatched and after flying around for a bit they all settled down on both Jamis and Miri and went fast asleep and after a while both Jamis and Miri joined them. Titania waited a full hour before making herself known and whispered to the dragons who awoke and flocked as one to her side. Although not a sound was heard she talked to the little ones for almost an hour and as one they all lifted off and followed Titania down the tunnel toward Esmerelda!

Esmerelda had been asleep but by the time they flew into her cave she was wide awake and stepped off of her perch to great them. They flew to her immediately and she smiled and began to talk to them. They all perched at her feet and listed deeply to every word she said!

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After a while they all went to Titania and then returned to the sleeping Jamis and Miri and waited until the pair woke up. At first they didn't notice the fairy but when they did they both jumped. Titania introduced herself and told them they had nothing to fear from her, and in fact, she was here to escort and protect them and the babies until they reached their destination just a few miles ahead. More than that she did not say but waited until they had eaten their breakfast and had shared the crumbs with the babies and were ready to travel.

When they left the little ones stayed with Jamis and Miri and didn't flock with Titania who led the way down the tunnel. With all the hatchlings glowing and pulsing all together there was no need for any source of light as the tunnel seemed to reflect their light and it was quite bright by tunnel standards. They walked for about an hour and then came out into a great cave being lit by the sun high above. They walked another thousand yards and when they came around a corner of the trail they came face to face with Esmerelda.

Titania spoke up and introduced the dragon to Jamis and Miri. "This is my liege, the lady Esmerelda, she will see to the little ones," and to the dragon she said. "These are the couriers who have been watching over the babies, my liege."

Esmerelda's bright red eyes look at Jamis and Miri, her gaze feeling like it was looking deep into their souls. She then turned to Titania and said, "Yesssss thesssse two will do nicccely, well done Titania," she cooed. Then turned to Jamis and Mire and instead of talking to them open her mouth and sprayed them with her dragon fire, both were quite dead long before they hit the ground. To the little dragons she said, "Eat your fill my darlings and I shall eat the rest." Humans are so nice and crunchy, but she'd need a keg of wine. Red wine, she thought, would do nicely!

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